HBR: We Need Better (Coronavirus) Masks


As many of you know – especially if you attended last week’s fireside chat – AAPN President Ed Gribbin is taking charge of this opportunity using our growing membership of those committed to remain this nations' apparel/textile 'first responders'. Reading this article again validates we were far ahead of the curve. While many still call for action, we acted on March 22 and have never looked back.

We Need Better Masks
HBR: June 18, 2020

With 21 U.S. states experiencing a rise in Covid-19 cases just weeks after reopening, it’s clear that maintaining control of the pandemic without lockdowns is proving to be a challenge. To not only stay open but also really revive the economy — to get people back to work, traveling, attending sporting events, eating at restaurants, and so on — they will need to feel confident that they and their loved ones are at low risk of getting infected.

Testing remains an order of magnitude short of what is needed, and a vaccine won’t be available until at least early next year. But we could potentially achieve control and confidence now if better masks were available for the general public that are more protective than the cloth ones worn now and closer in caliber to the N95 and high-filtration surgical masks used by health workers.

In a previous article, we underscored the need for such masks in order to reopen safely. Now, as cases surge, we explain why better masks are as important as ever and outline the criteria for their effective design.

Scientists believe that Covid-19 is largely transmitted via virus-containing particles that people emit when they breathe, speak, cough, or sneeze. N95 masks, if worn correctly, can block nearly all of this spread. High-filtration surgical masks, which are a cut below N95s, can block much of this transmission but are not as effective against smaller particles, known as aerosols.

There is debate about how much Covid-19 spreads through aerosols and whether the added protection N95s provide against them is necessary. While we need to better understand the level of protection required, what is clear is that if we had better masks than current cloth and homemade ones, transmission could be substantially and quickly curbed. The problem is N95s are uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, and both surgical and N95 masks remain in short supply even for health workers, making neither an option for the general population. Read More